Articles Posted in In the News

Did Meredith Graves get a “good deal” from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. after she accepted his misdemeanor non-jail plea bargain? Did DA Vance do the “right thing” in offering a non-felony plea? Certainly, the technical answer to both of these questions is an unequivocal “yes.” After all, it is not as if Graves, a registered nurse and fourth year medical student, had a legal defense. She could not argue the police lacked probable cause to arrest her or that the firearm in her possession was recovered as a product of an illegal search. Further, as we all know, ignorance of the law is no defense. The practical reality was that other than mitigation, no other true defense existed. In a case such as this, getting prosecutors to deviate down from a mandatory three and one half year sentence on a felony to no incarceration on a misdemeanor is significant.

Despite the fact that the offer is a heck of a lot better than the mandatory prison Graves would have faced if convicted of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 265.03), there is a real issue that I believe prosecutors ignored in resolving this case. Yes, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office recognized that the firearm in Graves’ possession was illegally possessed in New York, but it was not an “illegal gun.” Graves had a licensed firearm with the proper permits from her home state (whatever they may be). If evidence established that the weapon was purchased illegally, defaced, used in a crime or was involved in weapon trafficking, DA Vance rightfully would have taken a less forgiving approach. Further, unlike an arrest where a firearm is recovered as a result of some other infraction or crime, Graves had attempted to turn in the firearm and check the weapon at Ground Zero when she learned she was unable to possess it there. It does not take a criminal lawyer to recognize that DA Vance took all of this into consideration when ultimately determining what he believed to be the best resolution to this case and deviating from a normal offer or deal.

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Athletes, just like the people who pay to watch them catch balls, shoot baskets and swing bats, sometimes put themselves in compromising situations. Brandon Marshall, a star wide receiver recently traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Chicago Bears, is no different. According to the NY Post, Marshall is accused of punching a woman, Christin Myles, in the face during a late night (actually, an early morning) fracas. It is alleged that Marshall socked the young woman with enough force to give her a black eye. The fight is alleged to have occurred at a club in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Assuming the allegations are true, Manhattan prosecutors would likely charge Marshall with a top count of misdemeanor Assault in the Third Degree. New York Penal Law 120.00(1) is an intentional crime where you strike another person and cause that person a physical injury. The physical injury element requires substantial pain. Redness, swelling, and a more serious black eye would be enough to reach this threshold. Assuming there is a conviction, you would end up with a sentence ranging from community service or a conditional discharge to three years probation or as much as one year in jail.

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If one of Gotham’s leading tabloids is correct, the dragnet for alleged “Mommy Madam” Anna Gristina’s pimping accomplice is one step closer to exposing its target. According to the NY Post, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD have their eyes set on 30 year old VIP Life matchmaking recruiter Jaynie Baker as the next arrest in the latest high end prostitution bust.

Despite all the hubbub, Gristina, and possibly Baker, is only charged with a “D” non-violent felony for Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree. While prosecutors claim the mother of four scored millions of dollars during her time as a madam, she is not charged with Money Laundering, Enterprise Corruption or any other crime. As I stated in an earlier entry, this one count indictment is strikingly “odd.” In the recent past, high end escort services and their proprietors have been charged with significantly more offenses and much more serious crimes than one “D” felony that does not even carry a mandatory state prison sentence.

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If New York was the Biggest Little City in the World, then prostitution would be a taxable source of pleasure for the state and federal government. New York City, however, is not Reno and Anna Gristina is not the proprietor of the infamous Bunny Ranch. According to Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Gristina ran an enterprise that serviced well healed clients over a fifteen year period. In fact, according to Assistant District Attorneys, Gristina did not run a multimillion-dollar Gotham based prostitution ring alone. Instead, she ran her alleged brothel service with an at-large and unidentified co-defendant.

It is alleged that an Upper East Side apartment was a haven for late night and lunch time lovers who paid millions of dollars to Gristina over the course of fifteen years. It appears that prosecutors spent significant time and money pursuing Gristina and likely have powerful evidence. It is asserted that law enforcement sent in undercover police officers to investigate the alleged sexual fiascos (much to their chagrin and objection one would assume) as well as informants. Reports further indicate that there may be at least fifty hours of surveillance videos and recordings rated at least between “G” and “R” assuming there were no cams set up for a more detailed view. Unfortunately for Gristina, its is alleged that the madam even bragged that her connections in law enforcement would giver her a tip should Big Brother be onto her trysting scheme. Even Jason Itsler, the self proclaimed “King of all Pimps” did not not have that luxury (regardless, both have found themselves in custody during their alleged pimping careers).

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It is almost as if he is shooting fish in a barrel. Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., has made another big splash announcing the arrest and indictment of a New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s (“DMV”) clerk who is alleged to have unlawfully processed at least three drivers license applications. It is claimed by prosecutors, who are understandably concerned about this type of conduct, that one of the individuals who fraudulently obtained a license had previously been convicted of a felony and deported from the United States. Clarence Jenkins, the DMV clerk indicted for the alleged scheme, is charged with three counts each of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, Issuing a False Certificate, a class E felony, and Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. If convicted, the accused faces up to seven, four and one year in custody on each respective offense.

In acknowledging the danger of illegally issuing New York State drivers licenses to those who are not entitled to them, DA Vance stated “… [Jenkins] may have jeopardized public safety.” Whether as a New York criminal lawyer I agree with the prosecution’s ultimate determination as to how to handle the case and seek a potential plea or sentence, DA Vance is certainly correct in his assertion. Unlike a minor attempting to get a license for the purpose of going to a bar or purchasing alcohol, fraud such as that alleged here has the potential for grave danger. Fortunately, it does not appear from the press release that this is the case.

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Rookie term Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., has found himself in a position that is anything but envious. According to multiple reports, DA Vance’s main referral source for business, New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly, is also the father of an accused rapist. Greg Kelly, the co-host of Fox 5’s “Good Day New York,” is alleged to have raped a woman this past October in Manhattan. Although it is claimed that the alleged victim’s boyfriend initially confronted Commissioner Kelly about his son’s unwanted sexual conduct with his roughly thirty-year old girlfriend, the investigation was properly turned over to the District Attorney’s Office to ensure a fair and honest investigation by an agency with no ties to Greg Kelly. Far from atypical and likely the best decision for the investigation into the newsman’s guilt or innocence, Assistant District Attorney’s in the Sex Crimes Bureau will determine how and if the case will proceed to an arrest or indictment.

Obviously, Greg Kelly, through his counsel, strenuously denies the wrongdoing. Although any allegation of a sex crime is potentially debilitating and an embarrassing stigma, should the accused be convicted of a rape crime in New York the actual punishment is much worse than any public shame. While the manner in which Greg Kelly is accused of raping the complainant is not yet clear, there are generally three degrees of this crime. Regardless of the degree, rape must include penetration, aka “sexual intercourse,” even if slight.

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To do the “right thing” almost always takes courage. The path of least resistance it is not. In New York City, where gun crime seems to have been relatively rampant over the past year recently culminating in the tragic death of New York City Police Officer Peter Figoski, District Attorneys are frothing at the mouth with every new firearm arrest. While often time zealous prosecution is more than reasonable in gun and violent crime cases, other times law enforcement in New York City can’t see the forest from the trees. For the sake of Meredith Graves, a nurse from Tennessee who “checked” her legally owned handgun with the police at Ground Zero, let’s hope that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. not only can see this recent gun possession arrest for what it truly is – an honest mistake about New York laws – but also ignores the general guidelines he and his office have imposed on weapon cases.

Before addressing the allegations against Ms. Graves, one must understand and have a grasp on New York’s criminal statutes involving the possession of firearms without a permit. According to New York Penal Law 265.03(3), you are guilty of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (CPW 2) if and when you possess a loaded firearm (a pistol, revolver, handgun, etc.) that is both loaded and outside your home or place of business and you do so without a permit. There are two critical concepts or rules that apply to these cases. First, you need not possess any intent to use that firearm unlawfully or against another person. Second, case law establishes that “loaded,” in the eyes of the court, is far more liberal than its literal meaning. In fact, if the firearm is capable of being loaded and the ammunition is locked in a carrying case with your gun (but not physically in it), then that gun is considered loaded for prosecution purposes. One last, but unavoidable point. As a “C” violent felony, NY PL 265.03 is punishable by a mandatory minimum of three and one half years in prison for a person without absolutely no criminal history. Compounding matters, a judge could sentence a defendant to as many as fifteen years in custody.

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Stealing more than mere shekels, multiple alleged Identity Theft and check fraud rings pilfered $2 million from high worth individuals including the accounts of UJA-Federation donors. Although Hank Greenberg may not have noticed a few thousand dollars here or there, the alleged fraudsters are getting more than an “Oy Vey” from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. for their alleged identity thieving. In fact, some of the nearly sixty defendants arrested or accused of various crimes are facing charges including Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a “B” felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of one to three years in prison. The maximum for this crime is eight and one third to twenty five years, but these numbers are all skewed should any of these men or women have prior felony records from the past ten years. While alleged gang association does not necessarily mean a criminal past, prosecutors further claim the many of those arrested in New York were members of the Bloods and Crips.

According to the New York County press release as well as numerous media outlets, the scheme (like many involving Identity Theft) was fairly east to perpetrate. For Example, Tracy Nelson, an employee of the UJA Federation, processed donor checks. This access to sensitive and financial information gave her the opportunity to allegedly take pictures and copy account information of donor checks. It is further claimed by DANY prosecutors that Nelson then sold the copies to other thieves who would open fraudulent checking accounts or credit cards with this information.

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According to New York City’s top prosecutor, a Manhattan Chase Bank teller’s passion for the Benjamins may have cost him much more than the $240,000 he is alleged to have swindled from his employer. Unfortunately for Sephoen Tsang, a Chinatown branch worker, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. has escalated the “war” on white collar crimes in recent months with equal passion to Tsang’s alleged thieving ways.

It is claimed by prosecutors that Tsang made numerous fake and false entries into the computer system at Chase Bank regarding the movement of $243,000 in funds. Although prosecutors claim that internal computer systems records from November 29, 2011 appear as if Tsang moved $243,000 from his teller drawer to the bank vault and and then again to the ATM machines, these transactions never transpired. Instead, the money was allegedly stolen outright.

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“Go get ’em, Cy!” That was likely the cheer that echoed through the halls of TD Bank corporate headquarters after the Manhattan District Attorney and his troops announced the indictment and arrest of 94 individuals in an alleged check fraud and Grand Larceny ring that pilfered approximately $450,000 from the global bank. While the loss of $450,000 has absolutely no impact on the bottom line of such a large institution, and is likely viewed merely as one of the many costs of doing business in the 21st century, such a theft is significant in terms of consumer and banker confidence and security. The alleged fraudsters may have believed they were in a real life Staples commercial when they allegedly looted approximately 90 accounts and spent the ill gotten gains on cards and dice at area casinos (Hey, “That was easy.”), but they were certainly wrong. The sad reality for the accused is that many of those arrested now face up to fifteen years in state prison. Reminiscent of the Queens District Attorney’s Office 16 million dollar and 100 plus person indictments charging Enterprise Corruption, Grand Larceny and other crimes, Manhattan prosecutors, like District Attorney Brown’s crew, are poised to to send a strong message to would be identity, cyber and check fraud thieves. In fact, taking a page out of the book of his predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, for fighting crimes in the streets and in the suites, DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. stated:

“Our job is to protect New Yorkers, whether on the streets, online, or in the banking system. The most recent cases brought by my Office’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau show how pervasive cyberfraud schemes are, and how they depend on individuals willing to play various criminal roles. Whether you are a ring-leader or a small player, if you are caught committing fraud, you will be prosecuted.”

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